Tukshop Tuk Tuks sold to save elephants

It’s reckoned that elephant numbers across the world have plummeted by 90% in the last 100 years for a variety of reasons, from a massive loss of habitat to hunting for ivory.

In response to this crisis Elephant Family, a small dynamic non-governmental organisation (NGO), was started by the late Mark Shand. Mark had written the best-selling book Travels on my Elephant about his 800 mile trip across India on the back of a 30 year old elephant, Tara.

Inspired by Mark’s book, the NGO launched a unique awareness and fund raising initiative, Travels to my Elephant. The result was a fantastic series of events throughout 2015, in which Tukshop founder and all round Tuk Tuk Guru, Mr Steve, played a key part.

From the streets of London to the jungles of India

Steve's involvement in the project actually began in September 2014 with a visit to the Tukshop HQ near Southampton from event organisers Elephant Family and Quintessentially Foundation. At that stage, no one knew whether what was planned was possible.

The logistical challenges ranged from the Tukshop providing a fleet of Tuk Tuks (the company's entire UK stock!), which would be specially designed and auctioned and whether the vehicles could be insured and driven through London streets, to whether Steve could teach the novice crews how to drive the vans. Fortunately, Steve was able to respond with a resounding 'Yes' to all these questions and many more besides.

As a result, the Travels to My Elephant event was formally launched in March 2015 by the NGO's patron Goldie Hawn – featuring the first of the Tukshop Tuk Tuks – at Clarence House in London. It was supported there and globally by Elephant Family's Royal Presidents, HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, as well as a host of international stars and celebrities.

For the launch, Steve taught Ben, nephew of the Duchess of Cornwall, to drive a Tuk Tuk in the car park at Olympia so that he could chauffeur the royal couple to Clarence House.

As part of the adventure, 20 Tuk Tuks were especially designed by big names from the worlds of art, fashion and millinery including Rebecca Campbell, Diane von Furstenberg, Nicky Haslam, Mulberry and Zandra Rhodes. All these amazing artists and designers were licensed to use Tukshop's copyrighted Tuk Tuk artwork templates to produce their individual creations. This unique fleet of elephant infused Tuk Tuks charmed Londoners over that summer appearing at parades, events, shops and hotels right across the capital.

Steve spent three days in London as the event’s expert Tuk Tuk consultant during this time. He was there to provide technical and driver support for the entire fleet. This ranged from ensuring the vans were commissioned correctly to keeping them on the road and successfully promoting the cause.

A right royal auction

At the end of June 2015 an auction was hosted at Lancaster House in the presence of HRH Prince of Wales and HRH Duchess of Cornwall where Sotheby’s sold the 20 specially designed Tuk Tuks. This event alone raised nearly £800,000 to help safeguard this wonderful species from extinction. Mr Steve was a special guest at the event to ensure that the Tukshop supplied rickshaws went to good homes, mingling to answer any of the guests’ questions about driving and owning these cool little vehicles.

September 2015 saw Steve back in London again. This time to train around 50 of those taking part in the race, from super models to the super wealthy, to drive Tuk Tuks. He used the 5th floor car park of event sponsors, Selfridges, for this purpose. There the ramps, pillars and other hazards provided a great training ground for the Tuk Tuk race teams.

Over 700 million people reached, over £2 million raised

In November 2015, the eagerly awaited Travels to my Elephant race took place with 49 Tuk Tuks in total chasing each other across some 500km of India – along Mark Shand’s original route - to meet up with the world’s most famous elephant, the above-mentioned Tara.

The collaboration between Elephant Family and the Quintessentially Foundation, ably supported by sponsors like Selfridges and fine art logistics specialists’ Cadogan Tate, raised over £2 million for Asia’s endangered elephants and the communities that share their forest homes. It’s reckoned that nearly 700 million people across the globe heard about the event and its message of conservation.

In addition, this unique event raised global awareness of the dangers facing elephants such that it has inspired five NGOs to join forces and pledge £20 million toward further elephant corridors across the whole of Asia.

Talking about his multifaceted role in Travels To My Elephant, Mr Steve commented, ‘It’s incredible what’s been achieved with our humble auto rickshaws. Our classic Bajaj model was painted by Simon Emery at Paintbox and sold for £40k alone! We are proud to have been involved as a supplier and consultant and are also proud of how well these practical, chic and characterful little vehicles have proven themselves under such tough operating conditions.'

(As you can see from the picture, the Tukshop Tuk Tuk has had some pretty well know passengers!)

The travels go on, only the transport changes

Ben Elliot - Co-Founder of Quintessentially added,

'Mr Steve provided us with invaluable help in making sure this project ran smoothly from start to finish with his skills in Tuk Tuk supply, logistics, artwork & technical support. Training all our riders without mishap in the Selfridges car park prior to heading off to India was another achievement. Mr Steve even managed to give me a Tuk Tuk driving lesson in the very glamorous Olympia car park the night before the big launch at Clarence House. For anything Tuk related look no further than Tukshop'!

What THE tuk

Whether you’d like to buy, hire, convert, customise, service or just talk Tuk Tuks, get in touch with Tuk Tuk Master Mr Steve and the team

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